A seventh-minute strike from Finland’s Teemu Pukki was enough to condemn Hungary to a narrow defeat in Marco Rossi’s first match in charge, but there was still plenty to be encouraged by in an attacking display which only lacked real quality in front of goal.
Hungary head coach Marco Rossi opted for an attacking 4-1-4-1 formation in the Finnish city of Tampere with Gergő Lovrencsics and right back and Attila Fiola in an unfamiliar left-back role either side of Tamás Kádár and Ádam Lang. Máté Pátkai was given the task of shielding the defence with István Kovács and László Kleinheisler in front of him, Roland Sallai on the left and Zoltán Stieber on the right the two tasked with providing width and a good supply line to Szalai who was ploughing a lone furrow upfront.
Hungary seemed intent on hurting the hosts early on but Finland were ready to counter at every opportunity and capitalised on this in the seventh minute when Teemu Pukki robbed a hesitant Sallai and outpaced Fiola down the right channel before planting a low, left-footed finish just inside Gulácsi’s right post to hand the hosts the lead.
Gulácsi was forced to claw away a cross-shot two minutes later but it was largely Hungary dominating proceedings, albeit they kept spurning chances to equalise.
Stieber blazed over on the half-volley and later saw a low drive deflected wide, Láng and Sallai missed the target with first-time shots from inside the penalty area and Ádám Szalai was a constant thorn in Finland’s side, but they still couldn’t find an equaliser.
The second half started in open fashion and several opportunities presented themselves in the first few minutes. Firstly, Lang spurned a free far-post header from Stieber’s left-wing corner before Finland’s Soiri cut inside from the left flank but curled his ensuing effort just wide of the far right post. Szalai, captain for the first time, then did well to control Kovács’ inswinging cross from the left but Finland goalkeeper Hradecky stood up well to block the Hungarian striker’s left-footed shot from six metres.
Rossi’s men continued to dominate possession throughout the second half and several more opportunities came their way but they were either blocked by a resolute Finnish defence or simply placed off target without even testing Hradecky.
Indeed, it was Finland who perhaps came closest to scoring the game’s next goal when they twice hit the woodwork, firstly when Toivio rattled the crossbar from 22 metres following a free-kick and later when Pukki arrived for a near-post cross and scooped the ball onto Gulácsi’s right post.
Thus, there was no further addition to the scoreline which leaves Marco Rossi with a single-goal loss in his first match ss Hungary coach, yet he’ll be glad to see that his side is capable of attacking with vigour and will hope his forwards will be much more clinical on Tuesday at home in their behind-closed-doors fixture against Greece, their second in this new Nations League tournament.
Marco Rossi: “We knew the Finland team would play on the counter-attack and would be aggressive in the midfield, but we’d prepared for this and the result didn’t depend on this because we missed numerous opportunities.
We can’t let our heads drop because we gave everything in pursuit of victory and although there were errors in our game, there were positive signs too and we need to concentrate on these in the next match. I trust that our use of chances will improve, more specifically that we’ll be in front of goal because this is the key to progress”.
Finland 1–0 Hungary (HT: 1–0)
Goal: Pukki (7′)
Hungary (surnames first) – formation: 4-1-4-1: Gulácsi Péter – Lovrencsics Gergő, Lang Ádám, Kádár Tamás, Fiola Attila – Pátkai Máté – Stieber Zoltán (Varga Roland, 54.), Kleinheisler László, Kovács István (Kalmár Zsolt, 61.), Sallai Roland (Eppel Márton, 72.) – Szalai Ádám.
Featured image: MTI/EPA